Securing digital payments: The role of tokenisation and encryption
The convenience of digital payments has made our lives easier and exposed us to new security risks.
Imagine finding yourself in a remote region without any cash in hand. In this situation, you can contact a friend or family member to request financial assistance. Thanks to the revolution brought about by digitisation, our approach to transactions and payments has undergone a profound transformation.
The convenience of digital payments has made our lives easier and exposed us to new security risks. As we navigate this new world of digital payments, encryption and tokenisation, emerge as the unsung heroes, safeguarding our financial data and providing a shield against digital threats.
As per RBI annual report 2022-23, banks have witnessed the maximum number of frauds in the digital payment category in FY 2023.
The digital payment revolution, fueled by the widespread adoption of smartphones and the internet, has empowered consumers and businesses. However, the ease and convenience of digital payments have attracted the attention of cybercriminals who seek to exploit vulnerabilities in the system for their gain.
This is where encryption and tokenisation come into play. These technologies provide the layer of security needed to protect the sensitive data that flows through the digital payment ecosystem.
Encryption: The digital fortification
At its core, encryption converts data into an unreadable format, only decipherable with the correct decryption key. It's like sending a letter inside a locked box, with only the intended recipient holding the key to unlock and read the message.
In the world of digital payments, encryption ensures that your PII data - credit card information, and transaction details remain hidden from prying eyes.
The use of encryption techniques to protect the data by explicitly encrypting through cryptographic keys of higher strength in flight through secure protocols such as TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), the connection between your device and the payment gateway, renders it nearly impossible for hackers to intercept and decipher the data, even if intercepted through man in the middle attack, the whole payload is encrypted to provide higher security.
Once the data is transmitted securely to the payment gateway, payment processing and post-processing are carried out on encrypted data, leaving no open end. Most importantly, data at rest post-payment processing is stored in an encrypted form in the data store to protect against any data leak.
However, encryption is a reversible process accomplished through a set of cryptographic keys, which leaves some room for potential vulnerabilities. That's where tokenization steps in.
Tokenisation: The shield of anonymity
Tokenisation is an anonymisation process that is irreversible and replaces sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, with a unique string of characters known as a token.
These tokens are used instead of actual data during a transaction, rendering any intercepted information meaningless to attackers. This process of anonymisation makes it highly secure. When tokenisation is combined with encryption, it's the ultimate security that can be accomplished, wherein a payment token is further encrypted and transmitted over a secure TLS and SSL channel.
Consider a scenario where you make an online purchase. Instead of sharing your credit card number with the merchant, a token is sent. Even if a hacker were to intercept this token, they would gain nothing of value. It means that even if a company's database is compromised, the hackers would find only tokens rather than valuable customer data.
The marriage of encryption and tokenisation
Encryption and tokenisation form a formidable alliance, protecting the entire digital payment process. Encryption secures the path data takes while in transit, and tokenisation ensures that even if someone were to breach the payment processor's database, the information stored there would be utterly useless.
In addition to their security benefits, these technologies also offer peace of mind to consumers. Knowing that their financial information is being handled with the utmost care and protection is essential to maintaining trust in the digital economy.
The way forward
The landscape of digital threats is continually evolving. To stay ahead of malicious players, consumers and businesses must remain vigilant. This includes keeping software up-to-date, using strong and unique passwords, and being cautious when sharing information online.
Additionally, businesses should adopt the latest security standards and work with trusted payment processors who prioritise data protection.
As we continue our journey into the digital age, the importance of securing digital payments cannot be overstated.
Encryption and tokenisation play an indispensable role in this endeavour, acting as the guardians of our financial information. By understanding and embracing these technologies, we can ensure secured digital payments.
Ravi Battula, Vice President of Merchant Acquiring Business, Wibmo
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)